Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Beyond the Book: "Pickles to Pittsburgh" by Judi and Ron Barrett

My boys love cucumbers. My guilty confession is that I killed our cucumber plant. And I drove to four different garden shops and nurseries to try to search for a late in the season replacement, to no avail. Lucky for me, late-in-the-season sales mean that I came home with two more marigolds, chocolate mint, a four pack of chives, a banana pepper and purple bell pepper plant and an early yellow squash... RIP, Luke the Cuke. And also lucky for me, we live near some great Farmers' Markets where pickling cucumbers were already bountiful!

Here at Sprout Scouts Playcamp, we love any story we can really stew over--especially if it takes us from Farmers' Market to Table! We have done previous story stretchers with the first, most well-known books by author and illustrator team, Judi and Ron Barrett, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. The second book in the trilogy is just as tall a tale with a heartwarming twist in which the abandoned land of Chewandswallow is revisited and all of the food packaged and delivered around the world to those in need. My other guilty confession is that my main driving force behind choosing Pickles to Pittsburgh is my own love of pickles and the fact that I've always wanted to make them!

So armed with this Easy Refrigerator Pickles recipe from Gimme Some Oven and a bounty of fresh dill in our garden, we picked a peck of pickling cucumbers from the local Farmers' Market and read this fabulously fantastic bit of fiction before making our own batch of pickles! Refrigerator pickles are such a great first-timer's preserving activity. If, like me, you've never canned before or made your own preserves, and, like me, you are way to impatient to wait for fermentation to happen the "old-fashioned" way, refrigerator pickles are your new BFF. Think of them as quickles. They only need to ferment for a few days, and you can totally cheat, like me, and taste them after only one!

While Y was still finishing his afternoon nap, S helped me harvest a few sprigs of fresh dill from our container garden. We gathered our ingredients together: kosher salt, some cloves of peeled garlic, a peppercorn mill, a couple of bay leaves, our white vinegar and water. Once Y was up and ready to join us, we got to washing our cucumbers and dill with a sponge (cut in half, it's a the perfect size for little hands) in individual container baths. This may have been both boys' favorite part!

Cucumber sampling is an occupational hazard destined to happen along the way. With what was left, S got busy slicing! I gave the option to cut in rounds or spears; he chose both... Why not?!

Next it was time to mix the brine!

Y took "mixing by hand" quite literally....

And S loved using the pepper-mill to grind peppercorns into the brine.

The results were quite tasty! The cucumbers made crisp and crunchy pickles. I was so amazed! I found after a few days that they were a bit salty for my taste, so although I'm told you should "never" tweak the amount of salt in a preserve or fermentation recipe, in this one I might cut back just a smidgen. And there you have it, from Farmers' Market to Table, our very first batch of Quickles!

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